Now get the killers

Now get the killers

After a macabre tug-of-war over the body, the Philippine National Police has announced that it has completed verification of the identity of the man who was stabbed and shot dead on Aug. 10 in Novaliches, Quezon City. As bereaved relatives had insisted, it’s Randall Echanis, chairman of the Anakpawis party-list.

Echanis also served as consultant of the National Democratic Front in the Philippines in the currently stalled negotiations between the government and the NDF. Militant groups have pointed out that he is the fourth NDF consultant to be killed, after Sotero Llamas, Randy Malayao and Julius Giron. Echanis’ killing has fueled speculation that there is a deadly crackdown on members or sympathizers of the communist rebel movement.

PNP officials have denied this, noting that the target of the attack could have been a neighbor who was visiting Echanis, Louie Tagapia. Police said Tagapia was a drug suspect released from prison. The two men were at Echanis’ rented apartment when they were attacked. Echanis’ relatives, who finally got his remains from a PNP-accredited morgue on Wednesday, disputed police observations that there was no sign of forcible entry at the house, indicating that the victims knew their killers.

Anakpawis has voiced suspicion that state forces were behind the twin murders. Communist Party of the Philippines founding chairman Jose Maria Sison blamed the attack on the “gang of butchers” in the Duterte administration. This prompted a brief comment from presidential spokesman Harry Roque, who said that the government should not be blamed and that communist rebels also have a history of killing each other.

Obviously, the only way to determine the truth is to catch the killers. The attack occurred while Metro Manila is under modified enhanced community quarantine and mobility is restricted. The government has formed a task force to bring the killers to justice, as demanded by Echanis’ relatives and supporters. This should not be as messy as the battle for custody and identification of Echanis’ remains.